This study investigates what teaching practices in the ‘non-lecture context of a foundation programme’ help or hinder Māori and Pasifika students’ success in a New Zealand university. This two-year qualitative project used Kaupapa Māori and Pasifika Research (KM/PR) methodologies conducted in three phases: (1) needs analysis, (2) intervention and (3) evaluation. Twenty-eight Māori or Pasifika students were interviewed using the Critical Incident Technique identifying 798 incidents grouped into four themes for institutional development: (I) use effective practices for teaching and learning, (II) grow independent learners, (III) support the empowerment of the learner and (IV) harness the positive cohort effect. Initially, students reported that intensive support provided by the foundation programme was not preparing students well for success in degree-level study. Following interventions of institutionally-led changes, students reported better preparation for ongoing study. The overall learning environment and provision of Māori and Pasifika academic and pastoral support were important factors for success.